Friday, October 28, 2011

IIT coaching centres play a board game

With the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) working out the nitty-gritty of the format of a new Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), IIT coaching centres are also firming up their course of action to ensure that their business does not suffer. Kota-based Career Point Systems, for instance, will launch a school curriculum coaching division and also look at partnering with schools to train students on campus. “Seeing the kind of shift the regulatory framework might bring in, we are looking at incorporating some changes in our business model,” says Pramod Maheshwari, the Chairman and Managing Director of Career Point Systems. “We are gearing up to open a school curriculum coaching division by the next academic year. So far we have been preparing students for competitive exams, but now we have decided to partner with schools and prepare them for board exams too,” he adds.

Coaching institutes say they prepare students for high-end examination and though the IITs’ move will reduce the students’ dependence on them, the impact will be short-term. “The changes may impact the business for the initial two years, but things will be back to normal later,” says Maheshwari. “Even today the majority of 12th standard students take tuition. Coaching institutes will now focus more on teaching students in a way that they secure more marks in the board examination as well as in the aptitude tests. Aptitude tests like SAT, GMAT or CAT require a certain kind of training which coaching institutes have been providing,” adds another director from an IIT-JEE coaching institute in Nagpur.

Last month, the IIT council accepted the recommendations of the T. Ramaswami committee report on JEE reforms and also proposed a single entrance test for all engineering colleges, including IITs, National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and private institutions. The IITs say a notification will be issued in a couple of months which will give details of the format to be followed by the IITs while considering a student for a seat — whether to give 50 per cent or 60 per cent weightage to the board exams and the rest to IIT-JEE scores.

There is, however, a slight confusion and uncertainty about the new IIT-JEE pattern that will be put in place in 2013. “Two years down the line, IIT-JEE might be an aptitude test. The details, however, would be made available only after a formal notification in January 2012,” says the director of an IIT who does not wish to be named. “We have also agreed that the weightage for the board exams would apply to all subjects and not a select few. We decided to implement the new system in 2013 because there will be logistical constraint and feasibility issues,” he says, adding that they now have 15 months to get the new format in order.

Over a decade ago, English and engineering drawing, too, were part of the IIT-JEE examination. IITs would even accept state board toppers directly, informs an IIT director. Four IIT directors Business Standard spoke to said that the change in the IIT-JEE format is the need of the hour. “The Chandy committee report had brought out the fact that there is a correlation between school performance and IIT performance,” says a director. “Today, because of the culture of coaching classes, the schooling system has been thrown out of the window to such an extent that students are not even attending school because of the pressure of such training programmes. We hope this will change that,” the director adds.

IIT directors concur that when students graduate from elementary to secondary school, the elementary school performance is taken into account. And, when one goes from secondary to higher secondary, the performance in the secondary school is considered. Similarly, when one graduates from the secondary school system to the tertiary system, that score needs to be taken into account. “The world over, admissions are based on your overall academic performance. Unfortunately, that logic has been reduced to lip service and this causes all kinds of aberration in the education system, which needs to be restored,” says an IIT director.

Industry experts feel that exams like IIT-JEE have been causing difficulties at the school level because these have shifted the focus from school education. Students do not attend school and instead go to these coaching institutes. “Today, school education and board exams are getting neglected due to the pressures of the coaching class,” says Gautam Barua, Director, IIT-Guwahati. “Students focus only on physics, chemistry and biology and don’t learn geography or English which are subjects taught in schools. The ministry has, therefore, convinced the IITs to consider school education in IIT-JEE,” adds Barua.

While the IITs have given an in-principle approval for the change, the final decision will be taken by the IIT-JEE Committee in January next year. IIT-JEE, say IIT directors, has become a craze among students, largely because of the high-paying jobs one lands after an IIT degree. The directors say it will be an uphill task to bring in changes in the pattern. First, a mechanism will have to be put in place to normalise the school results by the numerous boards which the Indian education system follows. While IITs believe that the changes in JEE will bring the focus back on school education, coaching institutes argue that with the standard of teachers in schools not up to the mark, that idea appears far-fetched.

Source: Business Standard, October 28, 2011

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